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Stay Safe, Stay Curious, Stay Helpful

So this is a bit of different content than what I usually write about. Because my life has lost its healthy routine, I suddenly have a lot of time but very little motivation to make the most of that time.

It’s still a learning process but here’s how I’ve been slowly adapting to this new reality to stay safe, curious and helpful.

Staying Safe… And Sane

For the first 2 weeks, I was following new developments of the pandemic closely: what’s happening in the world, in Canada, in Ottawa? How’s the infection rate and death rate today compared to yesterday? I was even tuning in to the daily press conferences on CPAC (Canada’s version of C-SPAN). Because of my job, it’s a force of habit to read the news incessantly.

But it wasn’t sustainable, and it was making me feel anxious. To the point, all I wanted to do was just to lie in bed all day and shut off my brain. Here’s how I changed things up and stopped my unhealthy over-consumption of news.

Ignore the attention-grabbing headlines

Every day, my news app would give me notifications of headlines like “What you need to know about COVID-19 on [insert the day’s date]”. Although these articles might summarize things nicely, the frequency of notification wasn’t helpful.

My rule became: Is this headline trying to make it sensationalistic? If yes, ignore it.

Only catch up on the news at the end of the day

Except for news related to my job, I deliberately ignore everything else until end-of-day. This allows me to spend my energy on work rather than managing the anxiety spawned from bad news.

Choose a different medium

Instead of spending even more time staring at a screen, I switch to podcasts so I could multitask and give my eyes a break. Short explainer videos are also helpful and much easier than long-form articles.

Cherry-pick the news

This might sound like I’m building an echo chamber for myself, but with the overload of pandemic news, my brain can only take so much.

Every day, I would pick a few episodes from 3 podcast shows I like to follow: CBC Front Burner, Vox’s Today Explained and The Economist Radio. I don’t listen to every single episode but would only choose the ones I’m interested in listening. Each of them, 20-minutes long, dive into a different aspect related to COVID-19 (economy, social impact, health impact). Some issues may already exist before but is felt more acutely during the pandemic. Here are 2 recent episodes I found interesting.

I like The Economist’s podcasts on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy
Usually, I listen to CBC Front Burner podcasts in addition to other news articles, but since I’ve been cherry-picking news, I’ve been listening to fewer episodes

Staying Curious

On top of binge-watching TV shows like everyone else, I wanted to also use the time to learn or explore new things. Here are a few small things that have worked for me.

Enjoy music

A few days before this lockdown started, I had plans to go see the National Arts Centre Orchestra play Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, but that was quickly cancelled.

The great thing is that the National Arts Centre (NAC) has been releasing online content. My favourite is probably the NACO Home Delivery. Every Wednesday, the NAC Orchestra will share a recording of a previous concert. You can sign up for the email updates to get notified when a new episode is release. You can listen to the latest episode here.

One hilarious thing that always happens at the orchestra in Ottawa is the coughing between each movement. The entire audience hold in their itch and relieve their cough during the few seconds between each movement. It’s always been part of the orchestra experience for me, so it’s great that it was captured in the recording!

Cooking: experiment in the kitchen or try new recipes

I love trying new recipes, but because of my busy schedule, I haven’t been experimenting in the kitchen as often as I would like. I’ve taken this time to search for more recipes and test them out. I even improvised and made enchiladas from scratch, learning how to cook Mexican chillies and discovering more about this cuisine.

Learn random things

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I love podcasts. And this is a great time for me to discover new podcasts to listen to, especially when I’m in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes and recipes.

One of my favourite discoveries is “Overheard at National Geographic“, each episode dives into a different topic discussed at National Geographic offices. The topics range from humpback whales’ songs and the social behaviour of these beautiful giants to the story of the first women attempting to go into space only to be held back by the glass ceiling.

An important episode on gender equality and the ultimate glass ceiling

Another way I’m learning random things is through Instagram captions! I follow a few nature and conservation photographers and I’m especially grateful that they are sharing their work and things they’ve learned about their subject. My current favourite is the #oceanschool series that Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier run on both their account and through the conservation NGO they run, SeaLegacy.

Staying Helpful

The obvious thing you have to do right now is stay home and follow public health guidelines. But if you’re feeling helpless while at home, there are a few additional things you can do.

Donate your money

If you’re lucky enough to still be employed, think about supporting not-for-profit organizations and charities that might need the extra help during this time. Think about supporting your local food bank or the national branch, or if you want to support the international effort against COVID-19, consider supporting WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund.

Contribute in other ways

If you’re running short on money at home, think of things that can help contribute. For example, if you have arts and crafts materials or sewing skills, Canada Sews is a great online community you can join to help make fabric masks for front-line workers.

These are just some of the ways I’ve adapted to this new reality. It’s different for everyone, but I hope someone can find these helpful.

I know these times are hard for everyone and might be harder on some people than others. But remember to stay curious, helpful but most of all, patient because this will pass.

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